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EPA’S clean power plan is wrong for states

Imagine a rule that raises the cost of electricity, hurts the most poor among us, cuts domestic jobs and results in a dramatic re-shaping of the American electricity system. Now imagine that this rule was never voted on by Congress. 

This is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan, a rule that undercuts the states’ abilities to manage their own power grid and will raise the cost of energy dramatically.  

{mosads}Those hurt most by the Clean Power Plan will be the most vulnerable among us-the poor, the single mothers, the elderly and minorities. Households earning less than $10,000 per year spend an astounding 60-80 percent of income on energy costs, and those earning between $10,000 and $30,000 per year spend greater than 20 percent of their income on energy. It is no surprise that the inability to pay utility bills is a leading cause of homelessness in U.S. 

The EPA’s proposed rule could increase the typical household’s annual electricity and natural gas bills by $680, or 35 percent, by 2020, escalating each year thereafter as EPA regulations grow more stringent, according to a study by Energy Venture Analysis. 

While cost of energy will certainly be impacted, the reliability of our states’ power grid is also threatened. When federal regulators mandate that states use more renewable energy sources, nuclear or hydro-electric power than -fossil-fuel fired power the state’s infrastructure may not be prepared for the fuel switch. 

The Southwest Power Pool, a regional transmission organization that serves an eight-state region that includes Oklahoma, has warned that the rule “introduce[es] the very real possibility of rolling blackouts or cascading outages that will have significant impacts on human health, public safety and economic activity within the region.” 

Oklahoma and other states have managed their retail electricity markets in such a way that has provided affordable, reliable energy to their citizens for nearly a century. States’ individual departments of environmental quality have protected the well-being of their state’s air quality and the health of their citizens. It is an insult that this administration assumes that the EPA knows better than state regulators close to home. 

In the words of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Commissioner Tony Clark, “[States] will have entered a comprehensive ‘mother may I?’ relationship with the EPA that has never before existed.” 

The Obama administration implemented this plan because they believe that climate change is an issue.  However, it is not certain that this rule will make a demonstrable impact on greenhouse gas emissions.  One projection estimates that by 2050, the proposed guidelines would reduce sea level rise by only 1/100th of an inch (the thickness of three sheets of paper) and reduce the average global temperature increase by less than 2/100th of a degree. EPA justifies the proposal by counting reductions (“co-benefits”) in emissions of other pollutants already regulated by EPA. 

Not only do states not need the ineffective hand of the federal government determining what fuel sources it uses, but the EPA does not have legal authority granted under the Clean Air Act. States should be left to make decisions on the fuel diversity that best meets their electric generation needs. The EPA’s proposal overrides state authority by forcing states to prioritize non-fossil-fuel generation over fossil-fueled generation. This is a direct violation of states’ traditional role in making their individual energy policies. 

EPA is attempting to make fundamental and irreversible changes that will jeopardize our power grid while offloading responsibility to the states that have to answer to their citizens. Oklahoma will always challenge the EPA, or any other federal agency, when it exceeds the statutory authority it is granted.  

The Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office along with attorneys general in 16 other states and state think tanks like the Oklahoma Council for Public Affairs and legislators in 17 other states have voiced concerns over the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan. This proposed rule should be withdrawn, or at least stayed, until the courts have a chance to weigh in on legal challenges against these regulations. 

Pruitt is the attorney general of Oklahoma. Small is the executive vice president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.


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